Wednesday, March 24, 2010

In My Footsteps: Trip 33: Middleboro, Mass.

In My Footsteps
Christopher Setterlund
Trip 33: Middleboro, Mass.
March 18, 2010

            If charm were currency the town of Middleboro would be among the richest in the state.  There is a feel that cannot be measured when walking the streets of this small town.  First called Nemasket, meaning ‘place of fish’ by the Wampanoags, when settled in 1661, Middleboro is a place of historical and natural beauty that will feed your senses and soul.
            Middleboro has become the cranberry capital and is home to the corporate headquarters of Ocean Spray just across the town line.  The company, founded in 1930, began as a collection of three cranberry growers and has become the top brand of canned and bottled juice drinks in the country.  The 99,000 square foot building sits on sixteen acres containing cranberry bogs, ponds, and walking trails.  It is a great feeling knowing that such a large, successful corporation sits in the heart of Massachusetts.
            After a glimpse of the Ocean Spray grounds it was time to visit the heart of Middleboro.  This is where you get a real peek into the charm of this place.  The Middleboro Town Hall(right) is a shining example of it.  Built in the 1870’s the towering Victorian-style structure looks majestically over Rt. 105 which leads into a beautiful downtown area seemingly pulled right from a story.  I felt it necessary to take a walk in the sun around this area to appreciate it more.
            The Town Hall grounds house a few more places of interest including a Civil War monument(left) standing proudly in front of the Hall.  To its left is an even more spectacular memorial dedicated to veterans of all wars.  The American and P.O.W./M.I.A. flags fly above this incredible display which includes amazing marble benches sporting the names of every conflict faced by this country.  It even made a point to honor the Texas Revolution and King Philip’s War which astounded me.  The intricate bricks that fill the center of the memorial are special as well; many of them have names of soldiers from Middleboro who fought and died in the wars.  I felt honored to be standing among these brave soldiers, even if it was just their names.
            For more historical sites one only has to drive a few blocks from the Town Hall to find two of them.  There is the Robbins Museum of Archaeology named for Dr. Maurice Robbins, one of the founders of the Massachusetts Archaeological Society.  Just across the street is the Middleboro Historical Museum as well as the Tom Thumb Museum.  The latter features a large, interesting collection of items dealing with famed P.T. Barnum performer Charles Stratton.  He was a dwarf who only grew to a height of less than three and a half feet but became a celebrity during the early days of Barnum’s traveling shows.  Stratton and his wife, Lavinia, made their home in Middleboro and the museum is a touching tribute to an early American celebrity.  
            After leaving the downtown area of Middleboro it was time for lunch and a very special treat.  Located on Rt. 28 is Dave’s Diner(left), an authentic throwback to the classic diners of the 1950’s.  Although it looks the part, this great spot was actually built in Florida in 1997 and shipped in pieces up to its current location.  However, if they did not mention that fact you would be hard pressed to know that it was only 13 years old. 
            The location and atmosphere is amazing with 50’s and 60’s memorabilia hanging all over every wall, there is no need to read a newspaper or watch a television as the memorabilia is entertaining enough.  I decided to order breakfast which is served all day and chose the ‘Elvis’ pancakes which consisted of bananas along with chocolate and peanut butter chips.  Needless to say I was not disappointed with the taste or the portions.  The service and overall mood of the diner is off the charts, the people are all so friendly and seem to thrive on the carefree 50’s vibe.  I highly recommend that you make a stop at Dave’s if you are in the area, or even if you are not.  I made it a scheduled stop on my trip thanks to great reviews and here is another great review.
            One last area that I needed to stop and see in this wondrous little town was Oliver Mill Park(right).  It was named for Peter Oliver, an 18th Century citizen who purchased much of the land surrounding the current park and built an iron foundry on the park grounds.  Eventually Oliver became very powerful, rising to the rank of judge of the Superior Court, a rank which left him only second to the governor of the colony in 1762.
            On this day the ravages of the recent rainstorms had left the park flooded by the Nemasket River, most of the picnic area was surrounded by water being patrolled by geese.  The most incredible sight on the park grounds is the remains of an 18th Century ironworks which was later converted to a shovel shop after 1800.  Parts of the building are still visible including much of a wall with what can only be assumed to be an old window opening.  Despite the flooded park it was still possible to walk around these remains and marvel at what it must have looked like when it was a thriving industrial spot.        
            With beautiful downtown shops and streets for walking, an amazing throwback diner serving great meals all day, and an historic feel in many locations, Middleboro is worth the trip from anywhere in the state.  So pay your respects at the war memorial at Town Hall, grab some lunch at Dave’s Diner, and relax along the shores of the Nemasket at Oliver Mill Park.  It all adds up to a nearly perfect day.  Have fun and happy traveling!   
Directions: Middleboro Town Hall: From I-495 North take the exit toward S. Main St.  Turn left at S. Main St.  Turn left at Nickerson Ave., the Town Hall and war memorials are on the left.
Dave’s Diner:  From I-495 take Exit 6 for Rt. 44, at traffic circle take 2nd exit for Rt. 28.  Turn right toward Anderson Ave., take 1st right onto Anderson Ave., make a U-Turn, diner will be on right.
Oliver Mill Park: From I-495 take Exit 6 for Rt. 44, at traffic circle take 3rd exit to stay on Rt. 44.  Turn right at Plymouth St., take the 1st left to stay on Plymouth St. 
References: Dave's Diner
            Middleboro Official Town Site
   - General Tom Thumb

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